Phoebe and Her Unicorn (paperback)
by Dana Simpson
Phoebe is a third/fourth grader with a feisty, cynical personality who isn’t liked by the other kids in her class, especially the most popular girl. Phoebe finds herself with a unicorn, Marigold Heavenly Nostrils, who gives her one wish. Phoebe wants to be friends with her. We learn some interesting things about unicorns, including they are self-centered, think humans are below them, and love a good lawn. Phoebe uses her snark to entertain the reader, but no one else finds her quite as funny.
What I liked about this book is it’s written in a series of comics, which don’t all have to be read in order. Nearly each page has a pun, joke, or punchline, and I found myself laughing out loud. I didn’t need to remember what happened the page before.
What I didn’t like about this book was that it is written for kids (I borrowed it from my third grade daughter), but there are a lot of things that might go over their heads. I was laughing out loud, but I can guarantee she didn’t understand it all. It is clever writing, and she will enjoy it when she’s older!
Book 9 of 20 (summer goal)
(Book 55 of 2018)
Be Prepared (paperback)
by Vera Brosgol
Be Prepared is the second graphic novel I’ve read by Vera Brosgol (the first was Anya’s Ghost), and this is more autobiographical. The main character, Vera, is a Russian immigrant, and her main goal is to fit in with the more popular, American girls, but she is poor and Russian, and doesn’t look the same or have the nice dolls they have. She is discouraged, but learns there is a summer camp she can attend while the others girls attend their own summer camps. It is a camp for Russian American kids, and her mother finds a way to send her there. However, Vera finds herself in the same problem, trying to fit in with the popular girls, but she’s the youngest, smallest, and least cool. She declines help from the leader, and tries to make it on her own. Vera learns she can’t isolate herself, and has to get herself out of her predicament.
What I liked about this book is I think students will be able to relate to Vera’s problems while learning about summer camp and enjoying a graphic novel. Vera struggles to fit in, deals with the popular girls, and doesn’t understand what true friendship is, allowing herself to be used. She didn’t really put herself out there, and tried to be like the others. I could relate to that. Hopefully, this book will speak to some of my students who struggle with the same thing.
What I didn’t like about this book was the page with giant spider illustrations!
Book 2 of 20 (summer goal)
(Book 48 of 2018)
Positively Izzy (paperback)
by Terri Libenson
Positively Izzy is a middle school story about a spacey girl named Izzy. She is always daydreaming, and misses important assignments or information, because her passion is acting, and she plans to be in the talent show. Brianna (Invisible Emmie’s best friend) is the brain, and she never has problems concentrating, but needs to loosen up and enjoy life a little more. Their lives both change on the day of the talent show. Although they aren’t friends at school, we see how their lives are connected in the end, and it will leave you shocked and wondering how you missed it.
What I liked about this story was the way Libenson developed these characters, involving the readers in their lives. We think we know what’s going on, and wonder how they’ll meet since these two independent characters are both performing in the talent show at the end. When I finished the book, I had to sit there and think about clues I missed. Then I realized the author just did a really good job of leaving no clues!
What I didn’t like about this story was that it left me wondering about the dad still… I think I need to go back and reread it.
Book 75 of 40
(Book 41 of 2018)
Mighty Jack and the Goblin King (paperback)
by Ben Hatke
I really enjoyed Mighty Jack, but it left me hanging. Mighty Jack and the Goblin King is the second installation, and as far as I know, Hatke only has or plans to write these two. Jack and Lilley have gone into the garden to look for Jack’s sister, who was captured by a giant. When they get there, they discover a world with Goblins (who turn out to be good), Giants (who are bad), and these weird rat things that chew through the vines and pipes. Jack and Lilley are separated, but both face danger in search of Jack’s sister. They make allies and fight the bad guys, and have a final challenge at the end that will appeal to all of my female students. It doesn’t leave us hanging, but segues into another of Hatke’s series by introducing us to some of his other characters.
What I liked about this book was the girl power. Lilley took charge and was given an important job where she faced tough choices, but came out on top. Jack had to rely on Lilley’s quick thinking a few times, which is a nice change up from “the boy saves the girl.” However, there was the porch scene that was a nice surprise.
What I didn’t like about this book was the way is was crammed in. I felt like there was potential for other parts to be developed and explained, but overall, Hatke did a great job of writing an engaging graphic novel for my sixth grade readers. And their teacher.
Book 55 of 40
(Book 21 of 2018)
The Nameless City (paperback)
by Faith Erin Hicks
The Nameless City is nameless due to it being conquered about every 30 years. Because of this, people in different parts of the city have given it different names. Kaidu is a boy who was born into his place in society, learning to fight to protect the city. He makes friends with a girl who is considered below him, someone who isn’t from the newer part. When they learn the king’s life is in danger, Kaidu and Rat must find a way to make sure he isn’t hurt, but at what expense?
What I liked about this book was that the characters have to look at priorities and the good of all, despite what has been widely accepted by the majority. They also see each other as friends instead of people from different social classes.
What I didn’t like about this book was that it wasn’t as engaging as I hoped. It actually took me a long time to finish since I read other books. I wasn’t glued to it like I am with graphic novels.
Book 42 of 40
(Book 8 of 2018)
Mighty Jack (paperback)
by Ben Hatke
Mighty Jack is a quick graphic novel about a boy named Jack and his sister Maddy. Their single mom is busy working two jobs and Jack has to watch his sister, who is non-verbal and autistic, during the summer. At the swap meet, Jack’s mom gives him the car keys and $5, but he trades the keys for some mysterious seeds when Maddy speaks to the vendor. These seeds grow into a mysterious and magical garden, which they explore with the help of their neighbor friend. From this garden grows magical and dangerous things, and Ben and Maddy find themselves in an adventure.
What I liked about this book was how engaging it was to read. It reminds me a lot of Amulet, and Amulet has hooked many of my reluctant readers. It has everything a good adventure story should have- family, danger, magic, and even a little romance. I also like how it was quotable- there were several places with hints of a moral, and that is often hard to find in a graphic novel.
What I didn’t like about this book was that it left me on a cliffhanger- I wanted to know more!
Book 37 of 40
(Book 3 of 2018)
All’s Faire in Middle School
by Victoria Jamieson
All’s Faire in Middle School is the story of Imogene’s journey through the first few months of middle school. Remember when you first started middle school and you didn’t know who you were yet? I personally remember buying clothes and shoes that looked like everyone else’s, and being embarrassed of my family, although they weren’t any better or worse than my friends’ families. I knew who the popular kids were and aspired to be friends with them, and looked down on the awkward ones. These are the struggles that Impy faces when she starts Middle School after being homeschooled for all of elementary. Impy’s parents aren’t rich, and they aren’t like her friends’ parents in that they are a part of the local annual Renaissance Faire. Although Impy loves being part of the Faire, she isn’t sure if being herself is the right thing to do. She finds herself hurting people she cares about and making a fool of herself to impress people she doesn’t really care about in the first place, and she has to find her way out of this very relatable situation without making everything worse.
What I liked about this book is that it’s very relatable. It’s been awhile, but I can remember the sting of being embarrassed in middle school when what other people thought was the most important thing. I remember my parents offering to buy me running shoes when I joined the cross country team, but I wouldn’t let them, because the running shoes were neon and ugly, and I only wanted the suede shoes with the star on the side (Converse). I left the shoe store disappointed. In this graphic novel (that is perfect for my sixth graders, by the way), Impy makes some choices that she has to live with, and that is a very important thing to expose sixth graders to.
What I didn’t like about this book was the angst I felt. Regardless of the choices Impy made, not everything was her fault, and that irritated me the way it would irritate a middle schooler. There was a situation where Impy faced consequences when others at fault were not caught! Ugh- the frustration of being a tween came back to me. That is a sign of good writing if it can bring out those emotions after so many years!
Book 34 of 40
P.S. This is book 82 of 2017! But who’s counting?